Our Chairman and CEO Vincent Clancy looks back over our highlights in the last financial year and examines the opportunities ahead.

There is no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic has been the greatest challenge our world has faced for generations.

While our communities and markets may have been irreversibly changed by what has taken place over the last few months, I am proud of the way our people, our clients, and indeed the whole construction industry have responded to the immense challenge the crisis has presented.

‘Doing business the right way’ has always been core to our success, but never before has this felt so tangible. I am pleased with the work we are doing to make a positive contribution.

By doing so, we achieve better outcomes for our people, clients and communities, and make a greater impact on the world we live in.

Addressing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we have invested to support local projects and community initiatives around the world – be they around gender and equality, quality education, creating sustainable cities or industry, innovation and infrastructure.

Our resilience and success continue to be driven by investing in talent, shifting focus to emerging markets and addressing the world’s biggest challenges and building solutions that drive exceptional client outcomes.

This year, we were honoured with the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade for the fourth time. Having been recognised in 2003, 2009 and 2014, the 2020 award highlights the exceptional performance of our people and the strength of our global client relationships over the last two decades.

Although the economic shockwave from COVID-19 impacted the last quarter, overall 2019–2020 was a strong year for our business. Turnover increased by 16 percent to £744m and operating profit grew from £68m to £88m.

Life in the cloud

We saw strong trading in the real estate sector where net revenue grew by 19 percent. Demand was particularly strong from the high-tech and life sciences sectors, and our market position was strengthened further by the strategic acquisition of Taurus Project Controls Consulting in Boston, our only acquisition during the year.

We have continued to invest in our portfolio management capability across the real estate sector. In 2019, we launched our new technology platform, pace>, which enables clients to see progress and control data on their real estate portfolios in real-time, providing a catalyst for future clients’ success.

Infrastructure investment

In the infrastructure sector, we experienced sustained demand across all our markets with net revenue increasing by 15 percent.

In the UK, we are involved in major infrastructure programmes including the Environment Agency’s national flood risk management programme and in rail, we oversaw the set-up of High Speed 2’s programme controls and commercial capability, which enabled the project to obtain government approval to proceed into delivery.

Outside of the UK, our infrastructure business saw strong revenue growth in Asia, Australia, the Middle East and North America.

As the scale and complexity of infrastructure programmes grow, the need for effective strategy and set-up remains key to driving predictable performance.

Investment in our Programme Advisory business has underpinned our ability to meet this challenge and we remain excited about partnering with clients to drive programmes that deliver high performance.

Cleaner energy

The natural resources market has been extremely volatile during the year, particularly in the last quarter as global energy prices collapsed. Despite this turbulence, we saw net revenue increase by 16 percent to £71m.

Our focus has been to support the low-carbon energy transition. As part of this strategy, we have built market share in the renewables sector, increased our focus on cleaner Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) projects and built a programme management proposition in mine closure and rehabilitation.

Tackling the construction industry’s impact on the environment is paramount. As a global business, it is also crucial we reduce our own environmental footprint – setting and meeting internal targets for carbon reduction and ensuring that for all our people, sustainability principles are actively embedded in their lives.

It is with some pride for the business that targets set in 2015 to cut carbon emissions per employee by 25 percent have been met.

Leadership

During the year, we had some leadership changes to our executive team.

We sadly lost one of our Executive Board members Jon White to cancer after a long and brave battle. Jon joined the business in 1997 and was a major factor in our success over the last two decades. He will be missed by all.

In April 2020, Duncan Stone retired as Managing Director of our Asia business after over 30 years with the company. Anooj Oodit has taken on the role in addition to his responsibilities as Managing Director of Australia and New Zealand.

Single team for success

Our partnership model continues to allow us to attract top talent but also to take a long-term view. With 93 partners across the globe, the partnership is unified in a belief that success will come from a business with strong purpose and one that creates positive outcomes for all our stakeholders.

We continue to invest in talent and we are making steady progress with our objective to improve gender diversity. However, recent events have reinforced the need for us to accelerate work to create an inclusive environment and we are committed to doing so.

People are at the heart of our business and we stand firm and united against racism and discrimination of any kind.

We are a diverse and inclusive organisation, but we can always do more to drive positive change within our business, within our industry and within the wider society.

Accelerating transformation

As we transition from a health crisis to meet a growing economic challenge, the longer-term picture remains strong. The world needs to embrace a zero-carbon future, to transform cities and to create better living standards.

Like the rest of our industry, we will continue to feel the impact of recent events and will need to adapt to a new normal.

Resilience has been the hallmark of our business over the last 74 years and this, combined with the solid platform we have created, makes me confident that we will emerge even stronger.

We remain committed to the long-term view, to making a positive impact on our communities and to doing business with integrity.

Our industry is fundamental to solving the social and economic inequalities highlighted by the COVID-19 crisis, but in the past has too often been part of the problem. We now have an exciting opportunity to drive change and to build a better built environment.